Uses for Unmanned Aircraft
Unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as drones, are being used by many industries from agriculture to zoology. The use of drones has led to increased safety, decreased costs and less impact on wildlife and their habitats. Here are some of the ways they are being used:
Precision agriculture is a growing trend around the world. Data collected by UAS can be used to determine plant and soil health using vegetative indices. These indices are essentially calculations based on the reflected light wavelength from a plant using a special camera.
These cameras may focus on a single wavelength or be multispectral, meaning they can obtain data on multiple wavelengths at once. This information can be used by an agronomist to put a plan in place that leads to the best yields from a specific field. Newer farming equipment can use this plan to automatically apply fertilizers or pesticides where it can do the most good, saving farmers money and reducing the environmental impact.
Drones are being used around the world to increase the reach of medical professional and decrease delays. Hard to reach areas are getting deliveries of blood and medicines.
Transplant organs are moving from one destination to another without encountering traffic issues or the costs associated with a manned helicopter and labs are receiving samples faster than ever, speeding the time between draws and diagnosis. There is even an AED equipped drone that can rapidly be flown to the scene of an emergency.
Conservation is another area where drones have made significant contributions.
Targeted animals can be tracked and studied while minimizing human contact. Forests and waterways can be mapped, monitored and compared over time, particularly before and after a significant event such as a forest fire or flood. Drones are proving extremely beneficial in places where humans cannot easily or safely reach, or where we are unable to perform functions in a timely manner. A botanist recently discovered a plant in Hawaii, growing in an inaccessible area, that was thought to have been extinct.
These days, drone inspections are being performed in almost every industry that requires visual inspections as part of its maintenance procedures.
Industrial inspections, routine or otherwise, mostly involve the use of ladders, ropes and rigs to scale large machinery and towers and oversee processes. Not only is the inspection process risky for inspectors, the process requires machinery to be shut down, resulting in significant financial implications. The use of drones for inspection offers inspectors a professional tool for viewing difficult-to-access areas, giving them a safer, more cost-efficient way of gaining greater insight into operation-critical processes. In many instances, a drone inspection will be a visual inspection, with the drone’s camera acting as the inspector’s eyes. The use of drones for inspection reduces risks, increases efficiency and produces a meticulous record of an asset over time.
Search and Rescue
Drones are being used not only to improve safety and prevent future disasters, but on several occasions, they’ve been instrumental in savings lives. When a disaster or incident threatens lives and livelihoods, emergency responders need information and real-time imagery to make better decisions and save time.
UAVs can provide situational awareness over a large area quickly, reducing the time and number of searchers required to locate and rescue an injured or lost person, greatly reducing the cost and risks of search and rescue missions. Drones have been vital in locating survivors during natural disasters by using thermal imaging to pinpoint the locations of people in need of rescue or to survey flooded neighborhoods, recommend resource deployments, monitor levees, access damage to bridges, roads, and powerlines.
With the outbreak of the Corona Virus, drones have been used in a few novel ways. Agricultural spraying drones have been adapted to spray disinfectant in public areas 50 times faster than other methods. Other drones have been fitted with loudspeakers and thermal cameras. The loudspeakers allow health officials to disseminate information and the thermal cameras are being used to detect the body temperature of people, in an effort to identify new cases before they spread. All of this can be done while keeping the number of health officials, within the quarantine zone, to a minimum. This decreases the chances of a doctor or other healthcare worker from contracting the disease, allowing them to treat more people.